Mel Churcher is one of the top dialogue and acting coaches in
the world. She has worked with actors
such as Daniel Craig, Victoria Abril, Benedict Cumberbatch, Angelina Jolie,
Felicity Jones, Keira Knightley, Jessica Lange, among others.
She has been coming to give intensive workshops
at Frank Stein Studio since 2013 and we love her way of working .
We highly recommend her books, that you can
discover following this link.
the whole business seems to have gone loopy, dip into Mel Churcher’s book;
somehow she always makes sense. ‘A Screen Acting Workshop’ is a great book to
dip into.”Bob Hoskins
What do you think makes an actor great?
When I don't think
about the acting but am simply drawn into the world and transfixed by what I am
watching - that is great acting. When nothing is 'safe' - nothing expected - I
am watching a real human being dealing with vibrant life. When I leave the
cinema not being able to separate actor and role - Philip Seymour Hoffman IS
the Master, Peter O'Toole IS Lawrence of Arabia, Carey Mulligan IS getting 'An
Education'...Which doesn't mean that they are not also their own unique selves
but they are- at the same time- playing the make-believe world of '..as if I
were' utterly and completely.
What would be the most useful advice for an actor at the beginning
of their career?
To understand that
you need to stay five and believe in the 'game' of who you are - you are not
trying to 'show' us a role- you are stepping into a magic circle where you ARE
the role. A child doesn't say - 'let me show you Superman' but 'I'm Superman -
I can fly!' Put in the specific ammunition to make the world and situation real
to you - then don't ever decide HOW you play - only WHY.
What’s the strangest thing that you have ever experienced on a
Well - I once
taught a chicken how to act like a chicken - I taught an actor to believe in a
dragon that was really a props man waggling the branch of a tree. I've been on
a film where there were more real snakes than the role- assigned de- venomised
ones. And first day on set in a desert was in minus 9 and they had to have sand
machines to blot out the snow
Do you have any special tips for non-native speakers in
Yes - keep moving
between first language and English. First language is your organic one forged
out of needs - second one can be cerebral - this fuses them. Also listen and
mix with people speaking in English. And use the IDEA website for samples!
Students have told us about your mask exercise – can you explain this and what it achieves?
Yes I love using neutral mask to let actors play. Masks don't worry about themselves - they watch and copy and interact. Masks are driven by primary needs - by guts not head - that's what we need to find under the words. Masks are all about eyes (strangely) and every movement becomes meaningful. And when the actors take off the masks - their faces are clean and alive - their eyes are shiny! The social mask has dropped for a moment. 'Give a man a mask and he will will tell the truth.' Oscar Wilde. You stress the importance of breathing for actors. What difference can a good voice technique makes for an actor?
Relaxed breathing comes from our centre. Our core. This is also where you 'feel' - ache with loneliness - feel 'gutted' - knot with anger. Breathing well (not high and tight) stops stage fright, and makes you feel real - as if it is you speaking. It smooths put tensions and gives you an open channel to your emotions. It is the source of life - real and on screen.